Keeping stainless steel appliances clean and smudge-free can seem like a thankless job. Just when you finally get them looking perfect, someone reaches in the fridge for a snack, loads a glass in the dishwasher or pops a frozen pizza in the microwave and in the blink of an eye, your kitchen is awash in fingerprints.
In the Good Housekeeping Institute, we have rows and rows of stainless steel dishwashers, refrigerators and ranges, cabinets full of stainless steel cookware and stainless steel sinks in every lab, so we know a thing or two about keeping this metal clean. When we test stainless steel cleaners in the Good Housekeeping Cleaning Lab, we walk the halls in search of as many fingerprinted and grease-splattered surfaces as we can find in our Institute labs and test kitchens. And, if our appliances don’t have any marks, we add some.
We check for how well each product cleans away grease, food residue and dust, how neat or messy it is to apply and use, and how easily it buffs out without streaking. Before and after cleaning, we measure the gloss with a meter and we evaluate how well any protective coating that the cleaner leaves behind resists new fingerprints. Like with any cleaning product, we review the label for clarity of the directions and any safety warnings that may be required based on the ingredients. Here are the best stainless steel cleaners according to our tests:
Best Overall Stainless Steel Cleaner: Magic Stainless Steel Cleaner & Polish Aerosol
Best Stainless Steel Cleaner Wipes: Weiman Stainless Steel Wipes
Best Stainless Steel Cleaner for Cookware: Brillo Cameo Aluminum & Stainless Steel Cleaner
Best Stainless Steel Cleaning Cloth: Weiman Stainless Steel Cleaning & Polishing Cloth
Best Stainless Steel Cleaner for Grills: Rock Doctor Stainless Steel Cleaner & Protectant
Best No-Drip Stainless Steel Cleaner: CLR Stainless Steel Streak-free Cleaner
Best Stainless Steel Cleaner for Stains: Affresh Stainless Steel Brightener
Best Plant-Based Stainless Steel Cleaner: Therapy Stainless Steel Cleaner + Polish
Best No-Buff Stainless Steel Cleaner: Hope’s Perfect Stainless Stainless Steel Appliance Polish
Do you really need a stainless steel cleaner?
Appliances need gentle, non-abrasive cleaners to avoid scratches and help preserve the protective finish the manufacturers put on them. Baking soda is a gentle abrasive, so it’s great for cleaning stainless steel sinks, cookware, and even for removing coffee residue from inside a stainless steel thermal carafe or travel mug. But for the routine maintenance of stainless steel appliance fronts, we prefer products formulated specifically for that job, like the ones we recommend. They are non-abrasive and often provide a protective coating to help keep appliances cleaner longer.
The one instance where we do recommend using baking soda is if tiny rust spots start to appear on your refrigerator or dishwasher front. This means that the coating applied at the factory has been damaged and the exposed metal underneath is starting to rust. It this happens, apply a paste of baking soda and water to the spots with a soft cloth. Rub briskly in the direction of the grain, then rinse well and buff dry.
BEST OVERALL STAINLESS STEEL CLEANER
Stainless Steel Cleaner & Polish Aerosol
This aerosol was tops in our test for how quickly it dissolved away greasy splatters and oily fingerprints without streaking. It was very easy to use and left our appliance fronts shiny and with very little residue to buff away. And because the formula puts down a protective transparent coating as you apply it, we found it helped repel new fingerprints or at least made them less visible.
BEST STAINLESS STEEL CLEANER WIPES
Stainless Steel Canister Wipes (2-Pack)
Pre-moistened and convenient to use, Weiman’s wipes make quick work of cleaning hard to reach areas, like behind appliance handles and around toaster oven knobs. They are the perfect size for fast touch-ups and for cleaning and shining small appliances, the dishwasher, microwave and range. After wiping, simply buff with a microfiber cloth to shine. The protective coating they leave behind also helps repel dust, fingerprints and dirt.
BEST STAINLESS STEEL CLEANER FOR COOKWARE AND SINKS
Cameo Aluminum & Stainless Steel Cleaner
Whether it’s heat marks in a stock pot or bits of food burned onto a skillet, Cameo cleanser is up for the challenge. This gentle abrasive powder cuts through grime quickly and polishes stainless steel and aluminum cookware to a shine without scratching. Mixed with a little water it forms a thin paste that clings to deposits to help nudge them loose yet rinses away easily and cleanly. It also works wonders on stainless steel sinks.
BEST STAINLESS STEEL CLEANING CLOTH
Stainless Steel Cleaning & Polishing Microfiber Cloth
A good stainless steel cleaner only does half the job. You also need a great cloth to remove dirt and residue and buff the surface to a streak-free shine. Weiman’s cloth does double duty — one side cleans while the other polishes. Soft ribs on the cleaning side gently agitate and lift dirt without scratching while the polishing side buffs away streaks. This Good Housekeeping Seal star cloth is large, absorbent, and machine washable and dryable to reuse again and again.
BEST NO-DRIP STAINLESS STEEL CLEANER
Stainless Steel Cleaner
$5.97 (34% off)
This aerosol CLR formula dispenses as a foam, so it stays where you spray it. Especially helpful on vertical surfaces, we liked that we weren’t chasing drips down the front of our dishwashers and it didn’t drip to the floor when we cleaned angled appliance control panels. CLR did a great job erasing marks and the spray was easy to target on handles and around knobs.
BEST STAINLESS STEEL CLEANER FOR GRILLS
Stainless Steel Cleaner & Protectant
Outdoor grills often get overlooked when it comes to cleaning and end up needing extra muscle to look their best for when guests arrive. In our tests, Rock Doctor’s formula quickly cut through a greasy, grimy film on our test kitchen grill and left the control panel shiny and streak-free with minimal wiping. Great for indoor appliances, too, after using Rock Doctor on a dull dishwasher door, we actually saw our own reflections and couldn’t mar it with fingerprints no matter how hard we tried.
BEST STAINLESS STEEL CLEANER FOR STAINS AND RUST
Stainless Steel Brightener
Despite its name, stainless steel can stain. Scratch your fridge or dishwasher and in a short time you’ll begin to see tiny rust marks where the protective coating has been damaged. Using high heat can cause a stainless steel cooktop or pan to yellow or discolor. Affresh is a clear liquid specifically formulated to target these marks, not a regular cleaner or streak remover.
Simply apply some to a dry cloth or paper towel and dab the stain. Let it sit several minutes, then wipe or lightly scrub in the direction of the grain. Finally, rinse with a water or a damp cloth and dry. Affresh completely removed or significantly lightened some very old mystery marks on the front of a microwave in our GH Cleaning Lab in just one application.
BEST PLANT-BASED STAINLESS STEEL CLEANER
Stainless Steel Cleaner & Polish
$14.97 (25% off)
With over 2,000 5-star reviews on Amazon, it’s safe to say that Therapy is a consumer favorite. Not only did we find that it brightened and shined up a very streaky stainless steel freezer door, its plant-based ingredients include a lavender and vanilla essential oil blend — so it smells amazing while you are using it —and coconut oil to impart a protective shine. Included in the kit is a 16-inch square microfiber cloth for cleaning and buffing.
BEST NO-BUFF STAINLESS STEEL CLEANER
Perfect Stainless Stainless Steel Appliance Polish
If you have lots of stainless to clean up in a hurry, Hope’s is your best bet. It’s self-polishing formula dries quickly, without streaking and without the extra buffing that some cleaners need to impart a shine. And it works with just a paper towel — no extra cloths required. Hope’s is our go-to for shining up our stainless steel backsplashes during photo shoots and it’s from the same company that makes our favorite window cleaner, too.